Boat Projects, Maintenance, and Parts Feed

Squalls

IMG_0517When we were hand-steering back to Sint Maarten, over a week ago, I had a lot of time to observe our surroundings. In fact, when one is hand-steering at sea, it is one’s job to observe the sea, sky, sails, and instruments – and to maintain our course, of course. Off-watch, both of us slept, so much of each watch was spent alone on deck, contemplating life, looking at clouds, and trying to stay awake. (Not necessarily in that order.)  About 20-30 miles north of the Mona Passage, I watched a line of squalls head East to West as we were moving South.

Have you ever been at sea and observed a line of squalls? These were rather benign little things; a row of puffy gray clouds, white on top, and darker below. The darker clouds held rain, some of which was released in our direction. There are wind squalls, rain squalls, and squalls that provide lots of wind and rain and excitement. These were unexciting squalls, but still required adjusting the sails and donning a light jacket. They marched in an uneven line; some went ahead of us and some went behind; others went right over the top of us.

I thought of how life can provide some squally moments. Some squalls are benign and hard to dodge. Those are the things that won’t matter tomorrow or next week: an argument, spilled milk, a bad day at work. You move through them and move on. Other squalls can cause havoc and damage the boat or sails. These are things that may not be important a month or a year from now, but certainly make you change course or adjust your immediate goals: a fender bender, a failing grade, an illness, or a broken auto-pilot. Whether on land or on sea, some of these larger squalls can be avoided, others have to be endured. How we handle ourselves during the squally moments is an excellent test of our maturity, sense of humor, and adaptability.

IMG_0452For the most part, both EW and I have been handling this well, but I had a bitchy moment this morning. I can’t easily get into my clothing drawers, I can’t put the sewing stuff away, the master stateroom has been torn apart for over a week and, as Mandy from Secret Smile would say, bits and bobs that have been displaced from our cabin have made their way to every other part of the boat. It’s a mess. This morning I wouldn’t let EW make a pot of coffee until I had neatened what could be neatened and cleaned the surfaces I could see. He wisely vacated to the deck and gave me ninety minutes to create my own cleaning squall below. Now he’s off to FKG to get an answer on the viability of this second non-working part. My fingers are crossed that it can be repaired by tomorrow and we can leave this weekend. It’s still not too late to head across, but we will be one of the last fewIMG_0548 boats to leave Sint Maarten for the Azores this season. I didn’t want to be one of the last boats.

Still, this has allowed me to stock up on some good story ideas, evaluate my provisioning (I did good.), make new friends, and visit with ones we haven’t seen for a year. EW got to participate in two open mike nights at Lagoonies. I have upgraded the sea bunk lee cloth, repaired the main sail, and reorganized a few cupboards. As squalls go, having to turn back at 377 miles is much better than losing the auto pilot half way across the Atlantic. (Knock wood, people. Right now. I mean it.) I loved our time at sea (before Casey broke) and look forward to the crossing with more excitement than I did before we left the first time.

Some folks have pointed out that this auto-pilot squall could have been avoided if we had a wind vane. (For you non-sailors: an Auto-Pilot attaches to your steering system and uses electronics and electrical power to steer the boat in the compass direction you choose. A wind vane attaches to the rudder and steers the boat using a hard “sail” to keep the rudder working with the sails to move the boat forward. Many boats have both; some have one or the other.) It can be difficult to attach a wind vane to a center cockpit boat, it had not been done by La Luna’s previous owners, and we chose not to the invest time and money before we set sail. A wind vane is one of many things we would install in an ideal world, but we live in the real world of squalls, and had to make choices. We opted to leave Maine in 2010 in a safe, working boat, instead of  working for two or three more years during an uncertain economy with the hope of making  La Luna perfect. We decided to sail, and it was a great decision.

Thanks for all of your kind words, thoughts, and prayers. We are fine; we are safe, we are eating very well, and we are weathering this squall.

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Photos: 

  • La Luna at sunset in Sint Maartin
  • Master Stateroom amidst the Auto Pilot Squall
  • EW at Lagoonies
  • Shana, S/V Quartette, Mandy, S/V Secret Smile,  and me doing the “Fish Dance”
  • Dave and Trudy, S/V Persephone
  • Gavin, S/V Secret Smile
  • Gavin, EW, and Art – musician, ad man, emcee extraordinaire – leader of Lagoonies Open Mike Night.l

Blood on the Vinyl and Other Tales

Yep. We’re still in St. Martin and it’s been by turns:  busy, relaxing, friendly, frustrating, fun, exhausting, productive, and expensive.

Some boats have left for the Azores, while we and others weren’t ready or didn’t like the weather window. The “Jackrabbits” who left last week are complaining that there is no wind. Some have run their engines to the point that they’ll have to go into Bermuda to get (very expensive) diesel.Some were caught in storms with 35 to 40 knots of wind. We hope to avoid both of those scenarios.

There have been highs and lows out there meeting up and that is never a good thing. The result is that weather guru Chris Parker suggested last week that we hold here for a bit. (I really regret falling asleep during his on-line course a few years ago. EW says he understands grib files. Oh god, I hope so.)

In the meantime,  we are working on the boat, provisioning, working on the boat, meeting new sailing friends, working on the boat, getting things done.

Best thing that happened:

S/V Kookaburra showed up on Sunday morning!  It was so great to see Jaime and Keith again, though the new good-byes will be even more bittersweet.P1000428

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Worst thing that happened:

For the first time since moving aboard I have clogged the head. I am dealing with it. It was not a good day. You do not want a photo. <Shudder>

Here are more palatable bits about the past few weeks.

  • We bought and installed the Nimble Navigator and connected our AIS to the laptop. Very cool.
  • I’ve been working on provisioning – including medications – and got a skin check from a local dermatologist. He zapped the one suspicious spot I had with – I keep wanting to call it nitro glycerin, but I know that isn’t right. The literature he gave me called it “cryotherapy”, which is when a very cold liquid is sprayed onto the spot for 10-25 seconds. Burned like heck and I can’t swim before we leave – dang it – but I’m delighted to have been checked and treated. Life is good. As I told the taxi driver on the way back to the dinghy, “We white folks don’t always tolerate this Caribbean sun well.”
  • EW has been the energizer bunny of fixers. His list is long. His talents are many. In fact, I truly believe that I’ll nominate him for the best boat husband of the year and that he would give Keith from S/V Kookaburra a run for the gold. He has fixed so many things that I would have to ask him for a list because I can’t keep count. His list is so big that he deserves his own post. P1000424
  • My list is very short in comparison. I made covers for the water, gas, and diesel containers and a bag for when the awning poles are lashed on deck. This last project resulted in a boo-boo and my declaration that there was “blood on the vinyl”. EW thought that made a great mystery book title. I thought it would be better for a blog post.
  • I initiated “tool creep”.  Tool creep is when the fixer of all things on board needs more room for tools P1000411and parts. Tool creep can be a huge bone of contention on a boat. After assisting EW with some of his projects, mostly as go-fer, I realized that his tool storage was untenable and offered to provide him with new space in the forward head. He was surprised and delighted.P1000400

 

  • We’ve walked the new bridge, had drinks at the yacht club, visited with Mike and Sally at Shrimpy’s, and enjoyed a wonderful French breakfast with savory crepes and smoked salmon. I love St. Martin. 
  • We also popped the anchor during one of the squalls. No harm, no foul, but I did actually wear my real foul weather jacked when I worked on the foredeck. Haven’t worn that since Cape Fear three years ago.
  • I have made meal plans, massive lists, checked everything twice and provisioned the boat (except for the produce). As important, I have found places for all food we brought aboard. Well, EW helped with that. I had room for about half of every canned product we brought aboard. He offered me the storage under the chart table. It is the perfect extra food storage area and I was humbled and delighted. Apparently except for one group of spray bottles and a few other things, that stuff didn’t need to be as accessible. He did not have to mess up the spaces I had ceded earlier in the week.

Right now, it looks like we’ll be here until the 24th.  In the meantime, EW will get better at reading weather files; I’ll cook and freeze more meals, clean more and  write more; and we’ll both contact friends and family before we go. Last night we met up with other Grenada cruisers and were introduced to a couple who are also planning on heading off for the Azores soon. We’ll touch base with them and talk weather, buddy boating, weather, and departure dates. Their boat is called Wanda. That’s right, when we call them on the VHF we say, “Wanda, Wanda, Wanda”. You know I want to continue with “Wanda WHO! Who wrote the book of love?”

I’ll refrain.

Really.


Jailhouse Rock

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We hauled the boat  the day after we reached Sint Maarten

It’s been a very good experience. This is a well-known marina, we are pleased with the crew; the office manager is brilliant, and the new supervisor seems to be an excellent manager.

Having said all of that, we quickly learned that they are in transition, so we have to make some allowances. Since EW and I normally have good attitudes, and since we understand how boatyards work, this hasn’t been a huge problem for us, but it’s made for a few interesting boatyard moments. As long as the work is done in a timely fashion and correctly, we can live with that.

Good thing.

P1000140For all you non-boaters or non-live-aboards, here’s the thing about hauling out: You can use no on-board drains of any kind. That means that you can’t use any sink or head. (Unless you have a composting head, which is reason number 5 for getting one. But I digress.)  If you can’t use a sink, you have to go off the boat to brush your teeth, dump used dish water into a bucket for burial in the bushes, and walk to a shore facility to do your business.

The first time we hauled La Luna after moving aboard, EW chose a commercial marina near our boatyard in Maine, with no input from me. That was the last time he made that mistake. There were no facilities there. None. The one head was in the office and locked from 5 PM to 8 AM. We had to use the rest room in the gas station/convenience store across the street. We had to drive back to our home marina for our morning showers. This lasted two weeks and I was not pleased.

After that, I have always confirmed that any boatyard has a working head and showers available 24/7. In every instance until this particular moment in haul-out time, those facilities have been in the boatyard. In St. Lucia, the buildings were hurricane damaged, had spongy floors, and no privacy in the ladies’ shower. But they were cleaned at least twice a day. As we have found on most Caribbean islands, the boat yard was surrounded by a tall fence and security guards were posted at all entry points 24/7. I felt quite safe making my way down the ladder, through the stored boats, and to the brightly lit “Woman Room” any time, day or night.

In Trinidad, there was barbed wire atop the fence, the usual security guards at the gates, and others roaming about the property. We were farther from the heads and showers, but quickly learned that the guards were watching out for us. As I began my late night walk, one guard or another would emerge from the shadows and wave to me, so I didn’t get spooked by their presence. That yard had a long line of unisex water closets. Most of them contained a toilet and a sink with a mirror. The last four simply held a shower, hooks, and a small changing area. This was the most efficient system I’ve seen.Again, they were cleaned twice a day.

Here, we are again in a locked yard surrounded by a tall fence. The difference is, we are locked in.

Really.

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The security guards, stay on the outside of the only gate. They are responsible for the boatyard, the docks, and the parking lot. When the boatyard is open for business – from 8 to 5  on weekdays – we can pass through the office. The rest of the time, we must get a guard to unlock the gate. Imagine this. I climb down the ladder to use the facilities and I go to the corner of the fence nearest the parking lot so that I can call to B, or M, or Mr. D. in order for one of them to meet me at the gate and unlock the chain.

Really.

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Like I imagine one finds in jail, It’s easier to get in than out, because when we are “on the outside” we can simply track down a guard and ask to be returned to the pen. When we are on the inside we are at their mercy. They are efficient, friendly, and quick – in the Caribbean fashion of quick.

OH! And the facilities are uni-sex and we must use quarters to get into the toilets or the shower rooms. The showers require .50 for one minute of cool water.

I’m actually OK with the whole quarter thing, and that outstanding office manager had been clear about it prior to our arrival. I get a kick out of this sign though. P1000204Remember, we are in Sint Maarten, the Dutch side of this lovely island. The other side is French. We are no longer in the U.S. Still, this is the sign in the head.

So the quarter thing is mildly annoying but expected, but the whole locked in jail thing was definitely  a surprise. One morning, EW and I were standing at the gate trying to get someone’s attention. He wanted to find a tin cup to run along the rails; I wanted to take the ladder from the boat,  and “go over the roof” and “break out of this joint”.  We could have made it. There’s a utility  hut on the other side which would make it easy  to reach the ground.

The hull has been polished. The bottom has been sanded and primed. We will ultimately escape via the water, much more comfortably than those folks who tried to escape from Alcatraz.  In the meantime, anyone have a tin cup we can borrow?

P.S.  On Sunday,  one of our guards evidently had to use the facilities about the same time as we did. I had just left the building and EW was washing his hands when we heard, “Mister. Mister.” The security guard opened his stall door far enough to hand EW the key.

No! Not really.

<Wink>


Power to La Luna!

 

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La Luna on Wednesday afternoon

 

As I write this, the boat is pretty much a mess, with only two seats available in the main salon. There’s a vacuum cleaner on the galley counter; tools on the port settee, the bed, that same galley counter, and on the sole of every room; the non-working fridge/storage unit and the old inverter are in the cockpit, as are two large duffels of clean clothes; and one whole set of drawers are spread out in the forward cabin. In short, the only unaffected space on the boat is the forward head. 

EW is finishing the Inverter/Charger Project and it’s a project of some size. P2152590

(We pause in this report while I assist EW – again. Over an hour ago, he said, “I’m going into the engine compartment and will have to call on you when I need help with something.”  So far, I’ve delivered a screwdriver, the vacuum cleaner, and some weird corrugated tubing that wraps around lots of wires.)

P2082529Herman, a highly recommended marine electrician visited our boat a couple of months ago and convinced us that we needed a new inverter/charger. We ordered one, and asked my nephew, Brian, to pick it up in Fort Lauderdale and mail it to us. (Thank you, Brian and Colleen.) EW’s cousin Jeff received said package, and EW retrieved it and successfully delivered it – all 40 pounds of it – back here via dollar bus and hoof.

The old inverter. Worked for 28 years inside the engine compartment.

P2082533EW hates working with electricity. Still, he gamely plotted his attack on the system and installation. Herman had suggested that we install the new inverter/charger in a new location, rather than in the often hot engine compartment. EW and he found a space, where our old, unused Lectra-San had been installed, under one of my set of drawers in the master stateroom. That’s why all drawers drawers are in the forward cabin.

P2122559Yeah, it’s been fun.

(Now I had to find four pan had screws, one roll of the perfect electrical tape, and add gas to the Honda generator.)

 

 Above: The drawer space, with and without the new inverter. On Sunday EW installed a fan to cool the unit.

 EW had to take an extra day off this week in order to install the inverter. Thankfully, Peter from S/V Two Much Fun gave up his Wednesday  to help. Peter likes wiring and working with electricity. When I arrived home on Wednesday, EW picked me up at Crown Bay Marina, triumphant in their success, bloody but unbowed, and cheerfully let me know that, “The inverter is in, but the boat is a mess.”

Since we both worked through Friday, the boat remained a mess, and got messier today. I vacated the premises using the time to tote water, gas, and propane, and to do three loads of laundry. The laundry is still in the cockpit and the only section of the boat to which I’ve had access is my safe seating area at the table. So I work on-line and write and help EW.

(Had to set the clock on the inverter because he had to turn off the main switch. This involved starting the Honda generator twice.”

Once EW clears the master stateroom and galley, I’ll start on tonight’s home-made pizza. No one deserves that treat more than EW.

I love him – and our new Magnum MS 2012.

Boating is fun.

ASIDE:  There’s a very old wedding shower game during which one of the bridesmaids writes down everything the bride-to-be says about each present she opens. Afterward, she then announces what the bride is likely to utter on her wedding night. Yes, we used to think this was funny.

I thought of that when EW was ensconced in the engine compartment. A lot of interesting grunts and sentences emanated from the opening left by the displaced fridge/storage compartment.  I admit I chuckled, but am glad EW couldn’t hear me. I don’t think he’d have found anything funny at that point.

Time to make the pizza!

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At left, EW’s expression when working and making strange noises. At right EW when he knows I’m taking photos. Both are the real EW – but I don’t see the one at the right often during projects like this.

Maybe I need to take more photos.


Klutz

I’m am the first definition of klutz: 

klutz (klʌts)
n. Slang.

1. a clumsy, awkward person.

2. a stupid or inept person; blockhead.

[1965–70, Amer.; < Yiddish klots literally, wooden beam < Middle High German kloc]

My mom used to say (frequently), “Barbara, you can hit all four sides of a door when you’re going through.” She was right. This was not some version of child abuse and didn’t hurt my ego; it was just the truth. I’ve always had random bruises, and usually can’t remember receiving them. (Fran, one of my cousins, is also afflicted. As is my sister, Pat. Her husband was her boss when they met. Jerry said he married her so that she would have to change departments and stop breaking things in his.)

Back in high school, I had applied to work as a cashier at Bud’s Shop ‘n Save in Newport, Maine. Danny, the manager at the time, saw me in the store one day and said, “Here! Catch!” tossing me a raw egg. To my and my parents’ amazement, I caught it without breaking it. Danny thought that qualified as a test to see if I was coordinated and hired me. I worked for them part-time through the rest of high school and my first year of college. It was a great job and they liked my work. However, I broke many bottles of soda, banged my fingers a lot, and generally exhibited my usual klutziness. Danny swore that “You lied in your interview.”

Most boaters get bangs and bumps, and other women boaters in particular have mentioned their myriad of bruises. It doesn’t help that I’m a blue-eyed blond and bruise easily. My boating bruises appeared more frequently earlier in our marriage when we had a smaller sailboat, and there was that one time on our honeymoon when EW was accused of spousal abuse, but for the most part, it’s the boat that suffers when my klutz happens.

  • There’s an ammonia burn on the teak sole of the aft head. I did that.
  • There’s a nail polish remover scar on the salon table. I did that – and no longer polish my nails as a penance.
  • When EW reads this, he’ll come up with a list of things he’s had to fix because I broke them. Just like with my bruises, I don’t have good retention of  the many boat booboos that I created.

This week, as I was getting ready for work, I somehow stumbled on the way into the aft head. Now there is a lip one has to step over, but I’ve lived aboard this boat since 2002, so one would think that walking around would be automatic. It usually is.

Anyway, I stubbed three toes, and made an arm-wind-milling hard landing on the toilet seat, causing it to break off the head.  I left the lid there, askew, and went off to work, forgetting all about it even when my toes hurt a bit later in the day.

Until EW and I returned home and he went into the aft head.

“Dammit!”

I wondered, just for the barest of moments, what had upset EW, and then remembered and said, “Oh. I meant to tell you, I fell into the head this morning and broke the seat.”

“I can see that.”

“You can fix it, though, right?”

“Yes, but it will take some time and tools I’m not doing it until my day off.”P7250572

“OK. I’m fine by the way. Bruised my toes though.”

“Humph.'”

That’s why EW has the toilet lid on his side of the bed. (I disinfected it as soon as I saw it there. Ugh. Men!)

This morning, I found  an article on the web about a TODAY Show report by Savannah Guthrie, who is also a klutz. We are not alone, and it’s not our fault:

Guthrie reported on the science of clumsiness this morning, citing a 2007 Dutch report that essentially found that natural-born walking disasters really do exist – one out of every 29 people is 50 percent more likely to do something clumsy than regular, non-accident-prone people.

Today, Dr. Buz Swanik and his team of engineers at the University of Delaware are investigating what’s happening in the brains of clumsy people.

“They can’t create a plan for what’s going to happen next, and it could be within one-tenth or two-tenths of a second, and you’re exposed, to whatever is around you that could hurt you,” Swanik told TODAY.

And that fraction of a second is enough time to drop something, crash into something, fall into something – you get it.

TODAY host Savannah Guthrie and I? We are like this:  P7250576


The Tom Sawyer Method of Battery Installation

Meaning, I hardly had to do a thing.

I love our cruising friends, and am thankful that EW finally purchased the batteries before nearly every cruiser had left St. Thomas.

First of all, Peter and LeeAnn, our cruising friends from Two Much Fun told us how to receive a shipment into St. Thomas. Now, all of you who are thinking, “Aren’t they in the U-S-V-I?” Well, it depends. Here’s a short list of the challenges/conveniences we US sailors experience in this little bit of United States in the Caribbean:

  • The mail takes 7-10 days to get here or get there – but it is the US Postal System. Same stamps, priority boxes and everything.
  • Many companies won’t ship here, “Because it’s not the US.”
  • US cell phones work here just as they do in Maine or any other state.
  • Some companies, like D C Battery, won’t accept credit card payments from here for major purchases, “Because you’re not in the US.”
  • It only cost $81.00 and took less than a week to ship five very large batteries from D C Battery in Miami to St. Thomas.
  • I had to go through customs to receive them, even though this is so the US, darn-it!

Such is the cruising life. Again, since EW is working and I’m not, I handled customs. Here’s what you do.

  1. Take paperwork with shipping number and go to Tropical Office -  a short walk from Crown Bay
  2. Get more paperwork from Tropical, and walk in the other direction to Customs.
  3. Fill out a form, get more paperwork, and head back in the first direction, walking a couple of blocks past the Tropical office to their warehouse and arrange to receive your stuff.

I did all of this on a Thursday, with the intention of setting everything up to hire a truck to get the batteries to the marina on the following Monday, which was – of course – Memorial Day Weekend.

So then I went back to the Marina and talked with them about a slip for a night and day and about storing the batteries from Friday to Monday. No problem. On Friday, I hired the truck and driver, and helped him cart the batteries into their temporary storage area.

Then we went about our nearly normal lives with sick batteries and no freezer. In fact, I had purchased some beef for a dinner we were hosting for the folks on Two Much Fun and Kookaburra and had to have cousin Jeff meet me at the dinghy dock and take our meet for safe keeping, returning it to me on Saturday for the dinner.

I swear, I never meant for that dinner to be an “invitation” to help us with the batteries. We’ve installed a full set twice now. The first time, the two of us handled half of the project until a sailing friend on the dock jumped aboard to help. The second time we had an able-bodied young man help us. It’s not fun with only two but it’s possible. Regarding our most recent installation and our P5260090cruising friends:  I never pretended it was fun, I never offered them the brush with the whitewash on it; but if they insisted, who were we to stop them?

P5260065So Sunday morning, we took La Luna into the dock bright and early, and EW immediately began removing floor boards and taking the bed apart. We have two batteries under our bed and four under the sole under the companionway. EW has developed a system using blocks tied to the boom, and we lift all the P5260084batteries out the back hatch over our bed. Before we had gotten the first one ready to go, Peter, LeeAnn and Mimi showed up to help. First, LeeAnn took photos at my request. When I started trucking the batteries over to the boat, she took over on deck. EW floated between deck and working below to help Peter move the batteries.

P5260085Keith and Jamie joined us before I had returned with the first two batteries, so Keith joined the team on board and Jamie and I carted new batteries to the boat and old ones to a place where they would be transported for safe disposal. All the batteries were in their new homes before noon. P5260095

Of course, EW had some hooking up to do – and there were a couple of minor glitches, but all in all It was a good day. We stayed on the dock overnight, charging everything up, did other maintenance and cleaned the deck  while we were on the dock with water, and went back out to the anchorage on Monday.P5260101

We like our new batteries.

We love our cruising friends.

 

Photos, top to bottom:

1. EW and me removing the first battery. Peter was in the boat.

2. Peter and EW working on the bank under the companionway. Peter looks like he’s having fun.

3. Mimi – VCID – Very Cute Important Dog – supervising.

3. LeeAnn running the boom

4. Jamie after moving batteries with me.

5. Keith working the boom.


One Bad Battery WILL Spoil the Whole Bunch, De'ah

Bad batteries are contagious. One bad battery will infect the next, which will infect the next one and so on. Until you have five large 4D AGM batteries and very little power. We know this to be true.

EW now suspects the following:

  1. The batteries we purchased new in Maine in 2010 were not the quality of the Lifeline batteries they replaced.
  2. A wiring mishap weakened or “infected” one battery and it went downhill from there.
  3. While 99.9% of our experience at Peake’s Marina in Trinidad was outstanding, when we tied up to their dock for one night, the power post had huge problems, further weakening the batteries.

EW Battery Day TwoBack in Maine, my wise in-house electrician, with help from the real marine electrician at the boatyard, installed 6 batteries, the last – or first – was a starter battery wired separately from the main bank. In fact, the original starter battery was just as big and expensive as the others, but when one battery failed in Grenada, EW pulled it, replaced it with the starter battery, and replaced the starter battery with a smaller, cheaper one. Sometime between Trinidad and April, EW took another bad battery out of the system, leaving us with four infected ones to keep everything running.

At left, EW is removing our original Lifeline batteries and replacing them with a different brand. The Lifelines were 5 years old and he didn’t want to head to the Caribbean with bad batteries. Yeah.

We left Maine in the fall of 2010 and have had battery problems for at least the past year. Finally, they started falling like dominoes and we had to get new ones. 

At this point, EW went into research mode. What batteries should he purchase? What batteries could we afford? How will we get them here? Should we take the boat to St. Maartin and buy batteries there? Or should be go to Puerto Rico? Each month he has three days in a row off and we were actually considering that kind of a “vacation” – leaving here in the evening, sailing overnight to Farjardo, having the batteries delivered to the dock, installing them and sailing back. Oh joy.

I mostly stayed out of it because .. well, because I could. My role was to be sounding board, supportive, and helpful, and to conserve power. During the last few weeks of this saga, we had turned off the Cool Blue refrigeration system and were charging the engine driven system twice a day. The freezer didn't freeze, but it kept milk for a few days. In the end, EW was able to make a case for spending money on five 4D Lifeline AGM batteries. He had decided against the marathon sail/battery installation in Puerto Rico, and the cost of shipping the slightly less regarded batteries from PR to here was nearly three times the cost of shipping the highly coveted Lifeline batteries from Miami to here, justifying the more expensive batteries.

I was OK with the more expensive batteries because I’m a power freak. Seriously, I do conserve as much as possible, I just don’t want to lose batteries when we’re crossing an ocean. I’m that kind of power freak.

EW’s machinations took on the essence of that tired line from "pick any sitcom” about the woman shopping for shoes and justifying them by insisting that she is saving money because they were “on sale”. Buying batteries isn’t about saving money. That is partly what got us here. Since these new batteries are like the first ones we installed on La Luna  and they never caused any problems, and these new ones should actually last 5 – 7 years, then  this all sounds good to me.

Of course choosing the batteries, paying for them and getting them here was the prologue to the Main Event: Installing the Batteries.

With EW working five days a week, we essentially had a day and a half to: 

  1. Move to the dock in Crown Bay.
  2. Get the batteries delivered to the marina
  3. Remove and safely dispose of the old batteries
  4. Install the new ones.
  5. Charge everything up with electricity at the dock.

Yeah, doing all of that in Farjado and then sailing back would have been an excellent adventure. Not.

Tune in for the next installment when we find out how many cruisers it takes to install five heavy batteries. 

Mimi was head supervisor: P5260081


Beware of Part Creep!

If you have a boat – or renovated a home – you are familiar with Project Creep. When we were renovating the home, I called it the “As long as were doing this … let’s also do that” mentality. The biggest project creep for the home went thusly: We needed to have the roof shingled – so we decided to do the siding, too – which led to have all new windows installed. Now that’s expensive Project Creep.

Part Creep is just as inevitable, but more stealthy than Project Creep. Back at the house, I was often unaware of Part Creep because we had a shed, full basement, and attic and EW could hide a lot of stuff. On the boat, not so much.

When we bought her, La Luna had been owned by a sailor who didn’t sail as much as he liked, but who purchased every spare part and doodad he wanted. The boatyard workers were in awe of the boxes of things removed before the sale and had to stack those boxes on a pallet and use a forklift to get them off the landlocked boat. Still, on the day we closed I went aboard with a friend and inventoried the hundreds of spare parts and tools that had been generously left behind.

P7270071I took one look at our galley and its two small cupboards and informed EW that if he wanted to eat I was appropriating the port side of the main salon for food and dish storage. He likes to eat and readily agreed. A few years later, he humbly requested one-third of the under seat storage for his heavy tools. I graciously relinquished that space – taking the aft cupboard behind the dining seat in return -- and he ultimately remade the port lift top to open for each of the three sections, making my life a lot easier.

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More recently, when he finally decided to make the unused AC/DC fridge into a storage compartment I had to remind him that I would need him to give me some storage space for the vacuum bagger and bags that had been stored in the fridge for the past three years. “No problem,” he said, giving me the center cupboard behind the dining seat.

P6250428So imagine my surprise when I delved into that cupboard this week and found – sitting in plain sight – a small stack of paint mixing containers.

“This is not your space,” I exclaimed.

“Since when?” EW asked in a tone of voice that implied, “Is too!”

“Since you gave me this spot to make up for the fridge storage space.”

“Oh…..Hmmmmph.”

I tossed him the containers, which he then stored with all their little friends in the forward head.

I am the Queen of Project Creep, but I will not tolerate Part Creep. Those of you who generate Part Creep may notice that I have not filled this cupboard , and may even suggest that I share it with EW. Not going to happen. When we cross the Atlantic this cupboard will be full to the brim, so in the meantime, I will continue to defend “my” space.

EW, you are on notice!


Crafts Afloat

There are cruisers who are crafty and artistic. They make and sell jewelry, note cards, carved gourds, and rope items; Vicky on Foxy even makes quilts on board. I’m not at their level, but I’ve created a few things that have been helpful on the boat. Friends and former neighbors, Chuck and Diane, sailed around the world and invited us to visit when they traversed the Panama Canal. While aboard S/V Bear I noticed that she had made a sunglasses holder out of heavy plastic needlepoint canvas, and filed that idea away for the future.

We didn’t need a sunglasses holder, but I’ve since thought of a few ways that needlepoint canvas can work for us. These are not cute, colorful, yarn-covered tchotchkes. A quick search on the Internet shows a surprising number of dubious items one can make and give to unsuspecting friends and relatives. My projects are strictly utilitarian and leave the canvas naked – and washable. Instead of yarn, Diane used gimp to lace the pieces together. Do you remember gimp? EW had “never heard of it,” proving he wasn’t a Girl Scout.

At Camp Natarswi in Millinocket, Maine, I often had to choose between candy or gimp when spending my miniscule daily camp store budget.Gimp was vitally important in creating bracelets, key rings, or other items for friends and family. Candy was just vitally important.

My first and best project:  Drawer Dividers.

La Luna was built in 1985 and is a monohull. Both her age and her style willP6050189 indicate that she may not have the galley storage found in similar-sized newer boats or multi-hulls. In fact, the only drawers I have for the galley are at the other end of the salon, underneath a small book shelf. They are also small – so small that no commercial ready-made dividers would fit.

When we first moved aboard, I spent a lot of money purchasing home and marine storage items. Some proved to be worth their weight in teak, others did not.  The cut-to-fit plastic drawer dividers with sticky pads did not stay stuck for more than a year, but I kept them in use for a while longer with gorilla glue and other products. (EW and I agreed that 5200 would not be a good idea – though I was tempted.)

You can still get gimp at craft shops in the States and Amazon.com, but I haven’t been able to find it down islands at all. As you can see, above, this manufacturer calls it “Rexlace”, but if you Google “gimp” you can find it. At least one store in St. Thomas claims to stock it – sometimes. I’ve also found that most of the craft and sewing stores in the Caribbean don’t offer the stiffest plastic canvas, so if you want to make these items and you’re already in the Caribbean, I’d suggest adding them to your next guest’s shopping list. It won’t take up much room in her duffle.

Here are my two plastic canvas projects. If you have boat craft ideas with plastic canvas or other materials, please share them in comments, or email me about doing a guest post.

P6050157Drawer Dividers

1. Measure your drawer and the items you want to store. As you can see, our table knives and teaspoons dictated how I arranged the drawer. The interior of these drawers is just over 6.5 inches wide, so I decided the holders could be about 2 inches wide,which would allow me a bit of wiggle room. Except for the knives and teaspoons, I simply split the length in half, again, reducing the final lengths to slightly less than half of the length of the drawer to allow for the width of the plastic.

2. Now, add an even amount to each of the four sides. I added two inches for a rise of just less than that. If the dividers are too tall, it would be harder to remove the silverware. Cut rectangles from the plastic canvas in the appropriate width and length. The photo with the sacrificial cardboard shows a one-inch rise.

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3. Mark the fold/cut lines. for my drawers, two inches from each outside edge. Then cut the marked square out of each corner.

P60501724. Here’s the cool part: While the cardboard I’ve used for these photos holds a crease, the plastic canvas does not … until you use fire. Pinch the canvas along the lines and run it along a flame for a few seconds. Hold, and release. Viola! A fold.

5. Now, simply “sew” the gimp along each corner and you have removable, washable, custom drawer dividers. P6060218

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spaghetti Divider

I discovered Click Clack canisters before we moved aboard,and when my sister Pat came to visit our future abode, she helped me measure the canisters to fit. Somehow, I broke the pasta container last year, but all of the others are still locking in freshness and locking out bugs. I love that! Click Clack canisters are definitely on my “Good Product” list.

P6050143I purchased a new pasta keeper and then looked at the three different pastas I had to keep. I made a quick and easy pasta divider.

I measured the inside of the container at the top and bottom, because it tapers. Then I cut two pieces of plastic to fit the inside diameter of the container.

I cut each of them half way up the middle. and slipped them together creating a cross and four compartments. STOP

Then I did it all over again because I had cut them both up from the bottom. Cut one half way up from the bottom and the other half way down from the top. Also, make sure that the finished height is short enough to clear the cover, which does take up over an inch at the top of the container.

Insert dividers and pasta. NOTE: This isn’t a perfect divide, but it works – mostly. I will have pasta creep, but I live on a boat and don’t have room for multiple pasta containers, so I’ll deal. It’s a small price to pay for living on our boat in the Caribbean. Woot!

NOTE:  For some good ideas – and some strange ones – check out this. I found the hair clip/cord keepers to be particularly useful.

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Blame it on Steve from S/V Celebration–Well, Not Really

EW has a long list of projects, and he’s diligently working through it and ticking them off as he goes. Of course, after the water intake hose blew, the engine compartment took on a greater focus. He had already begun replacing the hoses, evidently just not in the right order.  Boat projects are like that. He finished replacing all the hoses and discovered that all of the hose clamps had issues. So, off to the marine store for stronger, better hose clamps. As he exchanged good for bad, he’d frequently exclaim, and show me how bad, bad was. See.  P3120112P3120116

You can see at left how the open style of the hose clamps caused them to degrade and break.

At right, the new style clamp – bumps, not holes. Solid. Solid is good.

 

He also discovered that a looming engine project had jumped to the fore. When we were back in Maine, he’d hired a yard to install new insulation inside the engine compartment. Now, some boats have easy access engine compartments. Heck, some boats have work shops inside  the engine room. Our lovely La Luna has an engine compartment that’s pretty tight. There is a smallish access door on the starboard side, form the pilot berth area; a large access door in the front, under the companionway;  and a medium access door in the galley. Basically, when EW is working in the engine room, nothing is sacred and all is cluttered. There is also access if one removes the AC/DC refrigerator.

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Here’s EW in the aft part of the engine room, behind Pine Top, our Perkins engine. I took the photo through the front access panel.

Here’s EW working through the galley access doors. He’s laying over Pine Top and the Cool Blue refrigeration system and he’s across from the stove and our main – now only – refrigerator/freezer.

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And, at left, here he is exiting the engine room through the hole where the old fridge lives.  Getting in and out is a bear, and involves lots of grunting, but once he’s inside, he can stand up.

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Let’s digress a moment to discuss that old AC/DC fridge.

When we moved aboard, I was delighted to have both a standard boat fridge and freezer and a smaller bar type unit. When we lived on the dock, I used that separate unit for produce. When we sailed, it would run on DC, but one day, before our cruise to Nova Scotia, EW asked me if I could live without it on the trip. “I think it’s using a lot of battery power.” You engineers or quick thinkers will already be wondering how well insulated a fridge would need to be if it’s situated inside the engine compartment. Exactly. I readily agreed to re-organize and stored dry goods in the fridge on the trip. Consequently, we used much less battery power and the chocolate melted. Afterward, that fridge was used only in the winter when we were on the dock. Once we left Maine, I used it to store the vacuum bagger.

Now, there were times when EW needed more access to the engine and we would remove this fridge from it’s hole. It wasn’t easy, but we could do it. I suggested that EW needed more easily accessible parts and tools storage and  that he he would have abundant storage if he removed the fridge permanently and build a nice teak-framed box unit with drawers – something that would be easier to remove for engine projects. I made that suggestion about 8 years ago.

Back to the present – EW had discovered that a section of sound insulation had degraded to the point that it was disintegrating and the ugly black matter was getting into pumps and other important bits. EW absolutely had to remove the old insulation. Oh joy. Two days and one bruised and battered captain had completed that nasty job without getting a lot of insulation in the rest of the boat. I do love EW.

So, he had new hoses, new hose clamps, and a cleaned-up engine compartment. We’re done, right? Time to move on to something else. No – and this is where I blame Steve, though that may not be fair to EW, because I would never want to imply that EW isn’t interested in having all of La Luna looking her best. Steve and Lynn are super people, a fun couple, and excellent sailors. They are both scary smart, and Steve is retired military.  He’s also learning to play guitar, so one day EW took a break and stopped by Celebration  to share a few licks with Steve. (Doesn’t that sound nasty? It’s what guitar players do, and seems harmless.) Of course, when two cruisers get together they discuss boat projects, which led to Steve showing EW Celebration’s engine compartment.

I haven’t seen it. When I was telling this to a few other cruisers, Carl from La Creole, who also knows Steve, said, “Oh man. That’s bad. You can eat off of Steve’s engine.” By this time, I knew it was bad – but it was too late. Steve has come up with all sorts of interesting ideas for their boat --- really, really good interesting ideas. How good? Well, back in the states they were boarded by the Coast Guard for a regular boat inspection. When the boarding party saw Steve’s engine compartment they asked for permission to bring folks aboard to show them what an engine compartment should look like. That’s bad – well, it’s good, but it’s bad for other cruisers.

P3170220The next thing I knew, EW was painting Pine Top. And then, he decided to tackle the fridge. Now, as many of you know, EW and I renovated a home together and a lot of that process would involve me thinking up ideas – such as a library wall in the den – and EW implementing them. The storage box/drawer unit is just such a project. Big, expansive, a lot of work. Here’s EW’s brilliant work around:P3150154

 

Take all of the fridge parts off the back of the fridge, making it lighter, smaller, and easier to remove when he needs access to the engine room.

 

 

 

Put it back in place and store stuff in it.

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We are a good team. I think up things and he makes them workable.

We had re-wired the engine room in Hampton, and now that EW’s completed all of his other engine room projects, we have a well-appointed and safe engine room – perhaps not to the standards of Steve on Celebration, but I can live with that and EW will have to. He has many other items on his project list, and  I wouldn’t want to eat of the damn engine, anyway.

Here’s the newly painted Pine Top. P3300033and the neatened up engine room with the fridge box installed. Oh yeah, that wouldn’t get hot at all when Pine Top is running. Right.

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